Spring 2006 Newsletter
From the Dean
Four years ago, Purdue Engineering embarked on a journey marked by dramatic growth in our faculty, facilities, and research enterprise, along with ambitious goals for our educational programs. The path is guided by a strategic plan that is every bit as aggressive as the university's plan--and we've enjoyed extraordinary success. A gratifying recent recognition is the No. 6 ranking of our graduate programs by U.S. News and World Report. In this e-Newsletter, we provide you with an abbreviated report on our progress.
We are not resting on our laurels. Propelled by our successes so far, we're setting new goals and renewing our commitment to preeminence. As we go forward, it's my privilege to work with the college's Engineering Leadership Team, as well as all the outstanding people associated with Purdue Engineering.
Leah H. Jamieson
Interim Dean of Engineering
Feature: Strategic Planning
Purdue Engineering's mission—to educate tomorrow's engineering leaders and innovators, to create new knowledge, and to impact the world through discovery—is the foundation of the college's aggressive strategic plan.
The plan, now in its fifth year, asserts a commitment to preeminence, requires principled action and sustained change, and expects teamwork and ingenuity as we work to become the preeminent institution for engineering education.
We show tremendous progress in several areas, respectable improvements in most, and the need to address challenges in others as we look forward to developing the next five–year plan.
Here's a look at our progress over the past four years.
Students, Faculty, and Staff
- The undergraduate student to faculty ratio improved from 23:1 to 19:1.
- Our undergraduate students are opting into novel opportunities to grow professionally, succeed academically, serve their communities, and learn valuable life and leadership skills through experiential learning.
- Our graduate program was just ranked 6th in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, up from 13th in 2002. Six of our disciplines are ranked in the top 10.
- We have doubled graduate enrollments in our distance learning degree programs.
- Entering freshman SAT composite scores increased by 20 points, and the number of National Merit Scholars entering our First–Year Engineering program increased by 34%.
- Graduate enrollment demographics improved in the proportions of women (from 16% to 19%), underrepresented minorities (from 4% to 5%), domestic students (from 44% to 47%), and PhD–track students (from 40% to 58%).
- Ahead of schedule with our cluster–hire strategy, we have filled 85% of strategic positions provided by the university and have several more pending offers.
- A net increase of 53 tenured and tenure–track faculty brings our total headcount to 341, including 18 members of the National Academy of Engineering.
- Faculty visibility is improving with 537 placements in 2004–05 in select state, national, and international news media and internet sites. Faculty citations doubled, and in 2003–04, 64 faculty published books or chapters and 168 served in editorial positions or on editorial boards of professional journals.
Learning, Discovery, and Engagement
- EPICS and SURF continue to produce exciting results in the areas of service learning and discovery learning, with particular promise in attracting and engaging students from underrepresented groups. These programs also promise rich collaborations and national visibility.
- With eight colleges within the university participating in our EPICS program, participants include almost 27% women and 29% non–engineering students. The national EPICS program has grown from eight sites to 16.
- SURF participants include 27% women and 19% underrepresented minorities from Purdue and 20 other universities.
- Participation in international experiences has increased by 62%. The School of Mechanical Engineering's GEARE program is a strong academic model that includes engineering coursework and international internships for 22 participants from Purdue and three other international university partners. Global experiences for our students and faculty are on the rise, but we continue to have a low percentage of undergraduate participation in study abroad programs (<2%) as compared to their expressed interest as incoming freshmen (<40%). We will stimulate future progress with the opening of the new Engineering Global Programs Office.
- Our new Department of Engineering Education is the first in the nation, with its inaugural PhD cohort and impressive (and growing) faculty talent. It has already attracted a significant grant to launch a new preschool through 6th grade (P–6) engineering outreach program, and is the pivotal partner to bring vision and success to the newly formed P–12 Global Engineering Strategic Plan—conceived by a campus–wide task force.
- Our new School of Biomedical Engineering—now endowed as the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering—has built a new building, matriculated its first cohort of undergraduates, and aggressively added new faculty. We expect this program will soon be among the U.S. News and World Report's top 10.
- The transformation of our engineering curriculum and graduate program is well underway. Our Curriculum Reform Task Force is engaging all of the schools in determining how we will best educate the engineer of 2020—what is now a national discussion. We are at the table with the NAE, the ASEE, corporate executives, and other stakeholders to identify a strategy, a vision, and key attributes of tomorrow's engineer. The next steps for our task force include meeting ABET expectations, engaging faculty to outline the desired outcomes of this reform, implementing critical curriculum components, and creating implementation milestones and success factors. An internal review committee is benchmarking and assessing our graduate program in three broad areas: recruitment, mentoring and retention, and monitoring progress. The report will set the stage for a Fall 2006 external review. The output from these two reports will drive our next set of priorities.
- Research has almost doubled, resulting in a rapid development of many exciting new centers and knowledge communities.
- We posted increases in all research measures: proposals submitted (35%), contracts awarded (19%), funding per award (24%), and sponsor expenditures (52%). The averages per faculty for these metrics increased as well.
- Investment in Discovery Park and in our signature areas resulted in new research endeavors along with several major new centers, including the NASA Institute for Nanoelectronics and Computing, the Advanced Manufacturing Center, the Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering, the Energy Center, and the Rolls–Royce University Technology Center—the first established in the U.S.
- Interdisciplinary initiatives and research collaborations increased by 10% and 24%. Production of intellectual property—patents and patent applications (76%), licenses and disclosures (17%), and commercial start–ups (from 0 to 3)—increased at even greater rates.
Climate and Facilities
- While we have made progress in some areas, we have not reached our long–term quality goals to substantially increase diversity and improve the campus climate.
- A Spring 2005 college–wide survey showed that, while most faculty, staff, and students have not experienced harassment or discrimination, approximately 10% of faculty and staff, and 20% of student respondents, did. Almost 10% of faculty and staff, and approximately 15% of student respondents, experienced discrimination. Respondents also indicated that they witnessed harassment (~30% faculty, ~20% staff, and ~40% students).
- All groups agreed that a diverse student body enhances students' educational experience, but disagreed that diversity hiring should be a priority. Responses varied widely in perception of whether engineering's level of effort was enough.
- Faculty and graduate student diversity has improved, but the proportions of women, underrepresented minority, and international first–year engineering students have all declined. To address these concerns, a diversity–recruiting plan is underway for undergraduate students, and an oversight committee was added to the faculty "cluster hire" process.
- Our facilities plan is unfolding rapidly with eight new buildings/additions completed, under construction, or acquiring funding. Five more buildings are preparing for extensive renovations. These expansion and improvement projects represent an investment of almost $250 million, with 70% coming from private donors. Actual assignable square footage has increased by almost 50% and will reach more than 60% by Fall 2007, far more than the original goal of 56% due to the unprecedented increase in faculty.
- The transformation on campus is credited to an incredible investment partnership of private donors, state and federal support, and university resources.
- We are on target to achieve our aggressive fundraising goal for the Engineering portion of The Campaign for Purdue . However, four–year growth in the market value of the engineering endowment was modest at 8%.
- The state of Indiana has provided more than $70 million for new construction with another $17 million requested, and $5 million was added to our recurring funds to create and sustain the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering.
Up Close: Alumni A Conversation with Kristi Anseth (BSChE ’92)
Kristi Anseth is an assistant investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and is a professor of chemical and biological engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
What's a tissue engineer?
Tissue engineers seek to develop strategies to help the body heal itself when normal processes go awry due to injury or disease. Since cells are the building blocks of our bodies, we often combine the principles of biology with engineering to develop methods that coax cells to regenerate functional tissue equivalents.
Typically, a biomaterial scaffold is employed to present cells with cues that are controlled in both time and space and the scaffold dissolves once the tissue is regenerated. It is a classic engineering problem because it involves controlling processes on multiple time scales (from seconds to months) and multiple size scales (from the molecular to macroscopic).
How did you get the idea that an engineer could rebuild the inside of the human body, especially in regard to weak knees and faulty heart valves?
Initially, we were simply trying to develop materials that would help broken bones heal faster. Bones are an amazing tissue in that they have the ability to heal without leaving behind a scar. So we were focusing on developing materials that would restore structural stability to a broken bone and then degrade away and release molecules that would accelerate healing.
As part of this research, we started interacting closely with orthopedic surgeons, and we quickly learned about all of the patients suffering from damaged cartilage. Unfortunately, cartilage is a tissue that does not have the ability to heal itself, so we began to think about new strategies—specifically, how could we engineer a process to get this tissue to heal.
Cartilage was a good first target because the tissue only has one cell type—you don't need to worry about a blood supply or nerve supply. The trick was to develop a biomaterial that would enable us to deliver the cartilage–forming cells in a manner that would promote cell survival and the functions important to making the molecules that are found in the tissue.
This is where all of the engineering comes into play. Once you can envision a system where cells can be delivered through a biomaterial carrier and used to promote tissue regeneration, the potential in regenerating other types of tissues is limited only by your imagination.
How does your chemical engineering training from Purdue apply to your current work?
I feel very fortunate for the outstanding chemical engineering education that I received at Purdue. The chemical engineering curriculum provided me with a solid foundation in the molecular aspects of engineering and prepared me to tackle a diverse array of problems.
Beyond coursework, I was also encouraged to engage in undergraduate research, and I was fortunate to have Professor Nicholas Peppas as a mentor. I not only had the opportunity to actively participate in cutting–edge biomaterials research, but I learned how to tackle open–ended problems and apply chemical engineering principles to the interdisciplinary field of biomaterials. Professor Peppas remains a close friend and mentor to this day.
Outside of every moment spent doing engineering at Purdue, what other fond memories do you have of your time there?
I was and continue to be a huge fan of Big 10 sports. I attended most of the men's and women's basketball games, as well as the football games. Go Boilers!
What habits did you develop during your time at college that helped you the most in getting to where you're today–that is, as a leading engineer with a huge societal impact?
I certainly learned a lot about work ethic, time management, and teamwork. However, if I had to identify one of the most important things that I learned, it was about being creative and taking risk. This was something that I learned through one–on–one interactions with faculty and engaging in the discovery and learning process of research.
Some people might wonder whether my research is "chemical engineering," and I would reply, "Certainly." Some of the highest–impact work comes from crossing fields and applying new ways of thinking to classical problems.
Many tissue engineers are chemical engineers who apply their knowledge and skills to diseases of the human body—engineering new processes and products with the hopes of impacting clinical medicine in our lifetime.
What caused you to want to become an engineer, as opposed to a regular scientist?
In truth, I never really knew a scientist or engineer before I came to Purdue. I grew up in a small town in North Dakota. My K–12 education was outstanding, and I enjoyed my math and science classes, especially chemistry.
A guidance counselor suggested that I might consider chemical engineering, so I thought that I would give it a try, but I didn't really know what a chemical engineer did.
What caused you to change from chemical to tissue engineering?
I really think of myself as a chemical engineer who is applying her skills to tackle problems that relate to medicine. My hope is that the field of chemical engineering will continue to open new opportunities and define new directions for research in the tissue–engineering field.
Engineering complex tissues will require new paradigms in biomaterials design for three–dimensional cell culture. And the field will need to respond to the new molecular targets that will become identified through genomics and proteomics and then engineer strategies to deliver these molecules to cells in very controlled and specific ways. Advanced bioreactors will be necessary to provide the complex environment that is required to generate functional tissue structures.
In parallel, engineers will need to design ever more sophisticated tools to characterize these complex living structures at many different scales and in a non–destructive fashion. Through collaborations with chemists, biologists, physicists, and clinicians, we can begin to think of a future where engineering principles are used to eliminate the pain of arthritis, treat the complexities of heart disease, or even alleviate the debilitating effects of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.
Now that you're a successful researcher, what keeps you coming back to the classroom and so dedicated as a teacher?
If I look back at my time as an undergraduate at Purdue, it was a period when my life could have taken many directions. I was fortunate to meet faculty members like Professor Peppas, who took the time to help me define my career goals and introduce me to research. Professor Nicholas Delgass, who was a dynamic and challenging teacher, always took the time to answer my questions no matter how busy he must have been.
I became a faculty member because I love interacting with students, whether it is in the traditional classroom or the research laboratory classroom. Because of Professor Peppas's influence, I actively seek out undergraduate students to involve them in our research. And like Professor Delgass, I try to bring his enthusiasm to the classroom and be accessible to the students.
I can't imagine a better job. I have the opportunity to interact with people at a time in their lives when they are achieving major goals, and if I am lucky, I can play a small part in helping them.
Students in Action: FIRST Robotics Competition
In this interview our FIRST faculty advisor, Carolyn Percifield, discusses the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) program.
Founded by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989, FIRST designs innovative programs to motivate high school and middle school students to pursue studies in science, technology, and engineering by introducing the excitement of a sporting event into these areas of study.
What's the whole idea behind FIRST?
Kamen's vision was to try to do something using sports as a model. In a game, you have teams and a playing field. There are rules for the game. In FIRST, instead of sports equipment that's pre-made, you have to build your robot for a competition that varies year to year.
Kamen also wanted to develop an environment where engineers, scientists, and technologists were "heroes" the way pro athletes are heroes. There's a perception that those involved in engineering and science aren't that fun to be around.
FIRST was developed with the idea to make heroes out of the people who are creating the inventions that make a difference in the world, and do it in an environment that captures the fun and energy of a sport.
How did FIRST start at Purdue?
The high school robotics program is how we got started. We had a young woman, a freshman, who had been on a high school team who came here and said, "I had so much fun. If it wasn't for my time in FIRST during high school, I wouldn't be an engineering student."
She wanted to start a team. We partnered with West Lafayette High School for our first adventure, which was to create a high school robotics team. We had around a dozen college students and maybe a dozen high school students. Most of them were from West Lafayette High School, but a handful were from Harrison that first year. That's how we got started.
Can you explain more what's involved in a FIRST competition?
Unlike basketball where you know what the rules of the game are and what the playing field and equipment looks like, with FIRST, we reinvent the game each year so that teams have to brainstorm how to build a unique robot. That's what is neat about this. Students have to brainstorm their strategy and then build a robot to execute the strategy. They have to consider what kind of functions the robot should have, what it needs to do, and how it moves. The students start from scratch.
What do you mean when you say robot?
What's on the field playing during the game are these remote–controlled robots. You win points by doing whatever the game rules say. Some years, they've had to move boxes and stack them up and hang from poles and climb over bars. This year, it was actually very close to a basketball-type game. They had a goal and they had a light at the top of the goal and the robot could have a camera that would see the light and then position so that they could aim.
So how exactly do Purdue students fit into the picture?
Our college students serve in the roles that are traditionally filled by professional engineers. There's a learning component to what our students are doing. They're teaching. They're teaching the high school kids how to use machine tools and also engineering, mechanical, electrical, physics, and programming skills. But at the same time, they're learning project management, team leadership, decision–making, and people to people skills–how to deal with team conflict. It's very intense.
It's really a great learning experience. It's what we call experiential learning.
They're learning from experience. They're learning from having to "do" as opposed to just reading it in the textbook.
How many students are involved here right now?
This year, we had somewhere around 60 to 65 college students. They were spread among three high school teams and twelve middle school teams, and we also hosted two competitions. One was a regional qualifying tournament for the table-sized Lego programmable robots and one was a regional competition for the big robots. So the Lego tournament was for teams around the state, kids that are roughly nine to 13 years old.
The competition with the big robots–that was a lot of state teams, a lot of Midwest region teams, but there were also several other states represented. Last year, we had teams from Florida, Kansas, Arkansas, and Wisconsin.
Discounted football tickets for Homecoming 2006
Mark your calendar for Homecoming on September 23, 2006! To celebrate our alumni, the College of Engineering will offer reduced tickets to the game. Come cheer the Boilermakers to victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Tickets for this event are $32 each, a discount of $13 per ticket! To take advantage of this special offer, visit the Group Ticket Window, and type in the login: ENGINEER and the password: BOILERMAKERS (these are case–sensitive).
This is a limited–time offer, so purchase your tickets now.
If you have any questions, please contact Natalie Kubat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Send your alumni news and thoughts on what you’d like to see in this e-newsletter to the Engineering Alumni Association at EAA@ecn.purdue.edu.